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Becoming a Trustee Amidst a Lack of Diversity

Becoming a Trustee Amidst a Lack of Diversity

When you’ve always felt like an outcast in life, it’s difficult to imagine yourself in a position of power. The statistics will be against you; that’s how I felt when I considered becoming a trustee. In England and Wales, only 8% of trustees are ethnic minorities, 36% are women and fewer than 3% are under the age of 30 (‘Taken on Trust’, 2017). This left me with a very small chance of becoming a trustee at Mind, the mental health charity.

Surprisingly, things worked out. So here I am, telling my story.

My name is Cynthia Tze Keng Ko. I’ve faced racism and battled chronic depression for most of my life, something I’d never want someone else to experience too. So when Mind was seeking steering group participants with this lived experience, I joined and have continued advising on various topics ever since. From one steering group to the other, I began trusting Mind’s employees. This gave me the confidence to apply for Mind’s Board of Trustees in 2021.

My professional experience in Diversity & Inclusion and involvement in Mind helped me align my application with the organisation’s strategy, but I am especially grateful for a Mind employee who gave me feedback on my cover letter. Getting through the first application round, the board interview and eventually the ballot vote felt surreal to me.

I entered my first board meeting with a heart full of hope and anxiety, knowing that I would be the odd one out. Currently I’m the youngest and only East-Asian trustee. It’s nearly been a year and I still battle with Imposter Syndrome. But I’m questioning my belonging less and less due to good-willing board members and Mind employees who reached out to me, encouraging me to speak up. Even when people felt different to me on the outside, having aligned values drove me forward.

So for those that are fighting the statistics of becoming a trustee: there are good people out there. Connect, seek advice, find your allies. Initiatives such as the Young Trustees Movement, Action for Trustee Racial Diversity UK and Getting on Board have been very helpful to people like me and many others. If we want to change the system, we’ll have to do it together in all our diversity. It’s worth the leap.


Cynthia Tze Keng Ko, Trustee at Mind